VARIOUS: Funky Sensation (Label: Jazz FM)

VARIOUS: Funky Sensation

Jazz FM’s latest compilation takes its titling from both the station’s regular party nights held at venues like Ronnie Scott’s and its Saturday evening soul show. Both take their names from Gwen McRae’s uplifting ’81 anthem – so, it’s no surprise that it’s Gwen’s tune that kicks things off here. Clearly then, we’re not talking hard, tough and sparse funk of the James Brown/Dyke and Blazers variety. Indeed wizened funk purists would find it very difficult to label anything on this double CD, 28 tracker truly “funky” (Al Jarreau’s ‘Easy’ anybody?) – but really that’s not the point. What we have here (and indeed what you get on the programme and at the club nights) is a rather superior mix of good time soul tunes – grouped together with the catchy branding that radio people are particularly fond of. The whole thing is a heady cocktail of the familiar and not so familiar … and it would only be died-in-the-wool curmudgeons who would criticise having people like Sister Sledge, Luther Vandross, Chaka Khan, Rose Royce, EWF, the Emotions and the Spinners on a party album. Yes – things like Luther’s ‘You’re The Sweetest One’ and Chaka’s ‘I’m Every Woman’ have been played to death but their comforting familiarity is tempered with things just a little more obscure – stuff from people like Harvey Mason, F.L.B., Bill Summers, Kleeer, Deodato, Pleasure and Sweet Thunder whose ‘Everybody’s Singin’ Love Songs’ is most welcome. Then there are two bona fide rarities. First, there’s Linda Williams’ ‘City Living’. This 1979 Arista recording has never been legally available in the UK before and is most sought after by the soul cognoscenti. Almost as rare is Michael Wycoff’s under-appreciated ‘(Do You Really Love Me) Tell Me Love’ and I know lots of collectors who will be glad to have the cut in their collection. And, I guess, that’s the beauty of the collection. Put together with love and knowledge by Mike Vitti and Ralph Tee there is something for everyone here… yes, even the curmudgeons and those wizened purists will find something to like.
(BB) 4/5